Friday, April 1, 2011

Today’s Video: Marta magic

Could Brazilian soccer superstar Marta soon ply her trade with some of the top men’s players in the English Premier League? Probably not though she certainly has the talent to play brilliantly:

We hope you enjoyed our April Fool’s Day posts on Friday. We’ll be back on Monday to cover more serious news items from the Americas.

Video Source - YouTube
Online Source –

I’ll build a casino on Gitmo says Trump

On a televised appearance on Thursday night real estate magnate Donald Trump blasted President Obama’s foreign policy. "Our weak president that kisses everybody's ass is in more wars than I've ever seen," Trump claimed as he accused Obama of war mongering. But the potential presidential candidate may have some explaining to do after making brief comments on Cuba.

Trump argued that the best way to get rid of the island’s Communist government would be to show the “good stuff” about capitalism. To this end, he proposed that if he were president he would close the military base at Guantanamo Bay and replace it with a casino. He cited Pentagon papers leaked on April 1, 2009 as proof that his idea was “foolproof.” Trump even suggested that he would resurrect Trump Air, which ceased operations in 1992, in order to help tourists flock to the gaming facility.

Trump’s remarks on Cuba come in the midst of allegations that the Miss Dominican Republic winner Dalia Fernandez paid over $100,000 in bribes. (Trump is a co-owner of the Miss Universe Organization that ran the Miss Dominican Republic beauty contest).

Obama has thus far broken his campaign pledge to close the Guantanamo person and last month he ordered the resumption of military tribunals there.

Image- Mark Wilson/Getty Images via The Guardian (“Barack Obama had promised to close Guantánamo within a year of taking office in January 2009.”)
Online Sources- U.S. News and World Report, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia, ABC News,

Nicaragua: The return of “El Pacto”

There’s a saying that goes “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Ex-president Arnoldo Aleman seems to have taken this to heart with the announcement this morning that he would again join with current president Daniel Ortega.

In a surprising move, Aleman said that he would withdraw his bid to compete in the primaries of Nicaragua’s main conservative party and would instead run with the Sandinista leader. “We ran the country before so why not do it again?” asked Aleman to the press in reference to their previous political alliance.

So far there has been no official response from Ortega or from other senior government officials. But according to a February article in Nicaragua’s El Nuevo Diario, Ortega “spoke very warmly” about Aleman after Ortega accepted his confirmation as the Sandinista presidential candidate.

Known as “El Pacto,” the agreement permitted the country’s main leftist and right-wing parties to run the country for over a decade. Both strongmen originally entered the pact in 1999 as equal partners though Ortega would gain the upper hand as he consolidated power via possibly dubious means. His bid for a consecutive reelection was blasted by opponents as unconstitutional.

Aleman was imprisoned in 2003 after being convicted of corruption during his presidency. Yet Aleman has attempted a political resurgence after the Supreme Court dubiously overturned his conviction last year.

The new alliance is expected to debilitate political parties outside of the Ortega-Aleman sphere such as small opposition groups and Sandinista dissidents. As Tracy Wilkinson wrote in the Los Angeles Times last September:
Caudillos like Ortega and Aleman thrive in Nicaragua, backed by huge political machinery and able to crush aspiring rivals with the flick of a wrist, partly because of the fractured, personalistic nature of politics here. Big egos in a small country, everyone and his brother wants to lead a party; there are dozens of parties so small you can fit the membership on a bicycle, as one local wag put it.
The Nicaraguan presidential elections will be held on November 6th.

Image- El Nuevo Diario (Arnoldo Aleman and Daniel Ortega in a 2000 public appearance).
Online Sources- El Nuevo Diario, Time, Canadian Press, Los Angeles Times

Hemispheric soccer federation proposed

Could Mexico play Argentina or the U.S. versus Brazil for a spot in the 2018 World Cup? This could soon be a reality in a major soccer shake-up proposed for the Western Hemisphere.

The chiefs of the continent’s dual soccer federations, Jack Warner (CONCACAF) and Nicolas Leoz (CONMEBOL), supposedly are behind the idea of creation a single soccer body covering the entire continent. The Federation of American and Latin Soccer Entities (a.k.a. FALSE) would commence after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil according to the notion raised by Warner and Leoz.

Under FALSE international competitions between clubs and countries in the Americas would be unified. The Copa Libertadores, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year, would fuse with the CONCACAF Champions League to form the Americas Cup starting in 2015. Mexican teams have participated as invitees to South American club competitions for over a decade including Pachuca winning the 2006 Copa Sudamericana.

The FALSE proposal would still require approval by global soccer governing body FIFA in a conference scheduled for December 28th. The plan has been met with widespread support by South American countries who believe that FALSE could give them increased revenues and an easier road to qualify for the World Cup. On the other hand, the idea has split CONCACAF and has raised the possibility that the Trinidadian Warner would be ousted from the organization. Caribbean representatives are particularly opposed to FALSE as CONCACAF executive board member Lisle Austin of Barbados briefly said:
“Jack is a bloody idiot and we hope to give his silly idea the red card.”
Image- Xinhua (“Jose Sand (9) of Argentina's Lanus and Hector Reynoso of Mexico's Chivas de Guadalajara battle for the ball during their Copa Libertadores soccer match in Buenos Aires Feb.11, 2009.”)
Online Sources- AFP, Wikipedia,, Los Angeles Times

Daily Headlines: April 1, 2011

* Argentina: An ex-army general and three former intelligence officers were sentenced to varying prison sentences for running a secret “Dirty War” detention center in Buenos Aires.

* Peru: Approximately 46,000 pieces of Inca-era artifacts taken over a century ago from Machu Picchu were finally returned to Peru.

* Guatemala: A joint operation between U.S. and Guatemalan authorities led to the capture of the Central American country’s most wanted suspected drug capo.

* Brazil: The group representing Brazilian sugarcane producers predicted that biofuel exports will decrease and that demand in the growing domestic market is outpacing supply.

Image – AP via MSNBC (“Former army intelligence operative Raul Guglielminetti, center, and former agent of Argentina's intelligence agency SIDE, Honorio Ruiz, sit in court before their sentencing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday March 31, 2011. Guglielminetti was sentenced to 20 years in prison, while Ruiz was sentenced to 25 years in prison, as they were charged for the illegal imprisonment and torture of 65 prisoners during the Dirty war in the Orletti garage, a tactical operations center for Operation Condor, a coordinated effort by South America's dictatorships to eliminate dissidents who sought refuge in neighboring countries.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, LAHT,, The Independent

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mexican Attorney General resigns

Mexico’s Attorney General resigned for the second time since President Felipe Calderon assumed power in late 2006.

Arturo Chavez Chavez cited personal reasons for his resignation on Thursday as Mexico’s chief law enforcement official. He served for eighteen months during a period when drug-related violence continued to escalate. His work came under increased scrutiny this month after Wikileaks revealed a September 2009 cable where U.S. diplomats blasted Chavez as "a less capable political operator...stymied by his considerable human rights baggage."

Chavez also came under fire this year with the uncovering of the "Fast and Furious" operation where U.S. law enforcement agencies illicitly permitted gun smuggling into Mexico with the purpose of tracking the activities of drug gangs.

Chavez’ resignation opens the doors for Mexico’s first female Attorney General. Calderon named investigative prosecutor Marisela Morales to the post with the aim of deepening “the strategic role of the attorney general's office, in particular in the fight against organized crime". Morales, who was a co-recipient of the State Department’s International Women of Courage award, is best known for creating Mexico's first federal witness-protection program and combating police corruption.

Morales’ appointment needs to be confirmed by Mexico’s Senate that is considering a reform that would allow the legislature and not the executive to select the Attorney General. It’s unknown how long the confirmation process will take or whether it will be as contentious as the one for Chavez. (The former top prosecutor for Chihuahua was criticized during confirmation hearings for botching up investigations into the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez).

The following video from Mexican daily El Universal delves into Calderon’s announcing of Morales as the nominee for the next Attorney General:

Video Source – El Universal via YouTube
Online Sources- Voice of America, Canadian Press, CNN, The Latin Americanist, El Universal, BBC News,

Attacked Brazilian blogger continues slow recovery

A Brazilian blogger seriously injured in a possibly politically motivated attack continues to recover in a Rio de Janeiro hospital.

Ricardo Gama after was shot as he was walking in the Copacabana area on March 23rd. The blogger, who was best known for his posts critical of government and police corruption, left the intensive care unit but was still convalescing in hospital. His condition has slowly improved after two surgeries and using a machine to help him breathe during several days.

In remarks to the local press on Thursday, Gama said that he was targeted in “an attack against freedom of expression.” He vowed that he “will not stop” working on his blog and he also thanked the growing support he has received from supporters such as followers on Twitter.

The incident against Gama has caught the attention of several international journalism NGOs. "Reporters in Brazil must be able to report on official corruption without fear of physical retribution" said Carlos Lauría, Committee to Protect Journalists’ senior program coordinator for the Americas. Reporters Without Borders warned of the increased risk to media covering “often controversial attempts to restore law and order in the favelas before the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.”

Rio police have reportedly identified the type of car used by the shooter and a local prosecutor allegedly claimed that this would make it easier to identify the unknown gunman. In the meantime, the below video report from R7 news shows that at least two policemen are guarding Gama’s room as he undergoes his slow recuperation:

Video Source –
Online Sources- Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders,, Jornal do Brasil, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas

Ads Nauseam: Deft not daft

In her 1999 book “The 100 Best TV Commercials ... and Why They Worked,” the late ad columnist Bernice Kanner praised a group of smartly-done ads in a chapter entitled "Deft not daft". The following effort is not a commercial per se but it's a very clever installation for Hot Wheels in Mexico:

(Hat tip: Copyranter).

Online Sources -, Copyranter
Video Source - YouTube

Daily Headlines: March 31, 2011

* Mexico: A combined reward of up to $5.8 million was offered by the U.S. and Mexican governments in relation to the attack against a pair of U.S. immigration agents in February.

* Chile: The attorney representing the three daughters of assassinated former army chief Carlos Prats confirmed that they filed a $15 million lawsuit against the Chilean government.

* Haiti: According to documents obtained by the Canadian Press news agency officials in Canada worried that a "popular uprising" would take place after a major January 2010 earthquake.

* Brazil: Could Brazil's growing reliance on China hurt the South American country's growing economy or are such fears unfounded?

Image – CNN (“Special Agent Jaime Zapata was shot and killed February 15 while traveling between Mexico City and Monterrey.”)
Online Sources- BusinessWeek, Reuters, MSNBC, CTV

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Venezuela’s Chavez blasts intervention in Libya

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has appeared in plenty of headlines over the past 24 hours regarding his receiving of a journalism award from an Argentine university. Yet Chavez continues to be involved in a news story that has dominated the global news headlines for several weeks: the unrest in Libya.

Accompanied by his Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernandez, Chavez yesterday continued his staunch criticism of the U.S.-led military strikes against the Libyan government. “We don’t want outside strange elements in the region that come to alter the peace we need” said Chavez regarding the role the UNASUR bloc should play in preventing interventions similar to those in Libya.

His criticisms continued today during his visit to Uruguay where he claimed that the “imperial march for oil” was the reason behind the actions against Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi. “Why don’t you ask Obama where he stands: beyond Gaddafi or no Gaddafi?” Chavez said to a Uruguayan journalist.

On Monday the Venezuelan president claimed that there was a conspiracy to associate him and Gadhafi as “cruel dictators who go after their countrymen.” But despite the close ties between both leaders Chavez rejected today the notion that Venezuela could grant asylum to the embattled Libyan leader.

While Fernandez critiqued the military intervention in Libya as trying to “solve problems by dropping bombs”, one of their South American compatriots seemed to hesitate in backing Gadhafi:
President Evo Morales of Bolivia has called for human rights abuses in Libya to be 'judged' as he appeared to step back from his support for Gaddafi…

Morales said he still 'condemns' the international intervention in the north African nation but also maintained that 'those who violate human rights to defend their government must be judged (and) condemned.'
Coincidentally, Morales’ point seems to have been shared by Africa's highest court that have raised charges against Gadhafi for "massive violations of human rights."

Image- TRT/AP via (“This video image taken from Turkish television Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is seen during an interview with the TV channel TRT, in Tripoli, Libya, on March 8.”)
Online Sources- Press TV, El Universal, El Tiempo, Monsters and Critics, Two Weeks Notice, Sky News, The Guardian, Venezuela Analysis

Today’s Video: Mind over matter

Could paralyzed individuals soon be able to walk with the help of a unique robot-like suit? This may be a reality in the next few years thanks to the breakthroughs in neurotechnology by Brazilian scientist Miguel Nicolelis. He appeared on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" on Tuesday and discussed the amazing work he does:

Nicolelis' ambition is not confined solely to the laboratory; he was recruited by the Brazilian government to help create a "City of the Brain" in Natal that could become a major scientific research center. Earlier this month Nicolelis was named as the head of a public "future commission" with the aim of promoting science in Brazil.

Speaking of scientific breakthroughs, Colombia's Manuel Elkin Patarroyo announced this week that he found a method for developing synthetic vaccines. This finding by Patarroyo, who in 1986 created an anti-malaria vaccine, could lead to vaccines that "can cover virtually all the 517 infectious diseases."

Online Sources -, Terra Brasil, Colombia Reports, AFP
Video Source - Comedy Central

Daily Headlines: March 30, 2011

* Cuba: After meeting with Cuban president Raul Castro yesterday former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is scheduled to talk with dissidents today including blogger Yoani Sanchez and members of the Ladies in White.

* Central America: Diplomatic tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over the sovereignty of Calero Island appear to be waning as both countries signed a pact on Monday to combat narcotrafficking.

* Mexico: The Mexican and British governments vowed to strengthen economic ties including doubling bilateral trade by 2015.

* Ecuador: The head of state oil firm Petroamazonas said that the company is seeking $500 million in foreign financing for the stalled Bloque 31 project.

Image – AP via CBS News (“Former President Jimmy Carter, left, speaks with journalists as his wife Rosalynn looks on after visiting the Belen convent in Old Havana, Cuba, March 29, 2011. “)
Online Sources- Canadian Press, Reuters, Xinhua, The Latin Americanist, The Tico Times

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

And the winner of Haiti's presidential election…

…Will be unknown for a few more days longer than expected.

The preliminary results of the March 20th presidential runoff election between Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat were supposed to be announced on Thursday. Yet a problem with the vote count may be the reason why the announcement of the results will be delayed until next Monday.

According to the AP:
While not disclosing specifics, Gaillot Dorsinvil, the president of the Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council, issued a brief statement saying officials found a "high level" of fraud and irregularities of various kinds at the tabulation center in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Dorsinvil said the discovery has prompted lawyers to adopt "more stringent verification measures," causing a delay in counting. He did not describe the alleged problems.
International observers reportedly claimed that the runoff was free of the major allegations of fraud found in the first round of voting last November. Amid accusations that President Rene Preval interfered with November's election, ruling party candidate Jude Celestin withdrew despite originally being placed in second behind Manigat.

Image- France24 (“Haitian workers demolish part of the damaged Presidential Palace on March 19, in Port-au-Prince. The announcement of Haiti's provisional presidential election results has been delayed by four days and will now take place on Monday, the electoral commission said.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, The Guardian, Reuters, Monsters and Critics

Was Neymar targeted with racial taunts?

Young Latin American soccer stars such as Chile’s Matias Fernandez and Mexico’s Javier Hernandez have shined during international friendlies this week. Nineteen-year-old Neymar was easily the best of the bunch after scoring twice in Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Scotland at London’s Emirates Stadium on Sunday. Sadly, allegations of racial abuse have overshadowed the impressive shutout by Brazil.

As he was preparing to convert a penalty kick near the end of the match, a banana was thrown from the crowd and landed near Neymar. Teammate Lucas Leiva tossed the fruit away and insinuated after the game that the fruit was thrown as a sign of racism. Moreover, Neymar interpreted the booing against him by Scottish supporters as part of an “atmosphere of racism” against him.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) reacted by strongly rebuking the claims of racism while a spokesman for the Tartan Army supporters group said that “Neymar was booed was because we believed he was feigning injury.” Their claims appeared to be supported by an investigation by the Metropolitan Police and Arsenal Football Club who play their home matches at the Emirates. Their probe concluded that “a German teenage tourist” sitting in an area “occupied by the official allocation of tickets to Brazil supporters” threw the banana in question. "The Metropolitan Police is satisfied there was no racist intent and have confirmed that no further action will be taken," said a statement issued by Arsenal via the SFA.

The Brazilian Football Federation has thus far rejected issuing a formal complaint regarding either the banana-throwing incident or the booing. While it could be argued that Neymar was been overreacting another Brazilian player may’ve been the target of racism from fans:
Zenit St Petersburg have launched an investigation into an alleged incident of racist abuse involving former Brazil international Roberto Carlos…

A photograph has since emerged of a supporter appearing to wave a banana in the direction of the former Real Madrid star as the two teams entered the field.

Zenit have condemned the alleged incident, and vowed to step up their efforts to stamp out racism by working closely with the country's governing body and the police.
Neymar could soon join one of Arsenal’s fiercest London rivals- Chelsea- as part of a rumored $48 million deal that could be completed in the next few months.

Image- AP via The Telegraph (“On the spot: Neymar pushed his asking price up by scoring twice against Scotland, including this penalty.”)
Online Sources- The Canadian Press, San Jose Mercury News, ESPN Soccernet, Reuters, The Guardian, Bloomberg

Same-sex marriage decision could impact U.S. immigration policy

Numerous denunciations have been presented over the past week to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on issues including discrimination against Haiti’s LGBT community and the possible pitfalls of U.S. immigration policy. A court decision last week regarding a bi-national lesbian couple could have a great impact on on both of these issues in the U.S.

Immigration judge Terry Bain suspended the deportation order against Monica Alcota to Argentina. Alcota wed her U.S. citizen spouse, Cristina Ojeda, last year in Connecticut, one of the few U.S. states that recognizes same-sex marriages. Alcota was under threat of deportation after overstaying her visa yet Bain delayed it at least until December in order for the couple to petition for federal recognition of their marriage.

For heterosexuals, non-citizens can usually gain legal residency by marrying a U.S. citizen but this privilege is not permitted for gays. The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages though several recent court decisions have declared unconstitutional several “core elements” of the law. In Alcosta’s case, Bain reportedly agreed with government lawyers on last month’s White House directive ordering the Department of Justice (DOJ) to not defend the DOMA clause specifying marriage is a union between a man and a woman. (It’s worth noting that DOMA continues to be federal law and that the Obama administration’s order specifies that the DOJ should keep enforcing that law).

The immigration court’s decision may’ve led to a policy “shift” announced yesterday:
The government will no longer automatically deny applications for immigration benefits for same-sex couples, opting to put them on hold until it gets some legal advice on the Obama administration's decision to stop defending the law that prohibits gay marriage.

The decision to put off deciding the fate of applications for immigration benefits from gays and lesbians married to U.S. citizens is not a change in policy, said Chris Bentley, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Image- Klaus Enrique Photography via CNN (“Monica Alcota, left, of Argentina and Cristina Ojeda, a U.S. citizen, were married in Connecticut last year.”)
Online Sources- La Verdad, EFE, CNN, Voice of America, Huffington Post,, New York Daily News

Arte Para La Gente: Adios Sonia

One of Colombia’s icons of dance, Sonia Osorio, passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

In 1960 she created the Colombian Ballet, a dance troupe that she helped lead in promoting Colombia’s traditional arts worldwide. Last year she received one of Colombia’s highest civilian awards, the Order of Boyacá, in recognition of her tireless efforts over the past six decades.

As mentioned in Colombia Reports:
While Osorio also worked as a renowned designer and journalist, it was through the art of dance that she devotedly portrayed Colombia's ancestral roots mixed with its contemporary culture. This work was most evident in the 30 years of input she did for folkloric dances at the famous Barranquilla Carnival.
Osorio’s son, Rodrigo Obregon, told the local press that his mother’s legacy is one that “cannot be allowed to die.” Hopefully his words will ring true for many years to come.

Below is a brief clip of the Colombian Ballet performing the joropo, a form of folkloric dance not only popular in Colombia but also in neighboring Venezuela:

Video Source - YouTube
Online Sources- El Tiempo, Radio Caracol, Colombia Reports

Daily Headlines: March 29, 2011

* Guatemala: Canadian firm CGN was sued by a group of eleven Guatemalan women who clamed that they were victims of a gang rape by security personnel hired by the company.

* Cuba: Will ex-president Jimmy Carter’s visit Havana help improve U.S.-Cuba relations that weakened since the recent conviction of Alan Gross?

* Argentina: Protesters allegedly disappointed at the government’s controversial 2009 media law blocked the entrance to the printing presses for Argentina’s two largest newspapers.

* Bolivia: Miners seeking better work conditions continued their five-day-old strike that has halted operations at one of Bolivia’s top silver and zinc mines.

Image – AP via BBC News (“Hundreds of women are murdered in Guatemala each year.”)
Online Sources- CTV, LAHT, The Guardian, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Monday, March 28, 2011

Daily Headlines: March 28, 2011

* Brazil: Five policemen in the city of Manaus were arrested after a security camera caught them harassing and shooting at a fourteen-year-old boy.

* Venezuela: A group of university protesters ended their month-long hunger strike after the government reportedly met their demands of increased public spending on universities.

* Colombia: Residents of the Amazon village of Nazareth have banned tourists partly due to the visitors' alleged disrespect towards indigenous people.

* South America: At least 38 people have died in Paraguay and Bolivia as a result of a dengue outbreak began roughly three months ago.

Video Source – AP via YouTube
Online Sources- UPI, MercoPress, The Canadian Press, BBC News